Sunday, 30 June 2019

Carlisle and the Lake District by Public Transport

17th to 21st June 2019

A week off to go somewhere. Can't be arsed to drive long distances. Got a train to Carlisle and a room at the Hotel ibis Carlisle, in Botchergate, a short walk from the railway station.


GWR train from Sandhurst to Reading. On time, good start.

GWR train from Reading to Paddington. Had booked the 1111 train but that was delayed so just hopped on the 1107, plenty of empty seats. Handy that there are now frequent fast trains Reading to London. Very fast too now that it's all electric IETs. I'll still miss the HSTs though as I grew up with them.

Hammersith & City Line to Euston Square and the short but crowded walk to Euston  Station. People, you really don't need to walk 4 abreast 😒

Virgin Pendolino* to Carlisle. Actual legroom in my booked seat! I'll admit to having gone via London despite it costing slightly more mainly to avoid several hours in CrossCountry's cramped Voyager trains even though I booked via CrossCountry's web site as I've found it to be the least aggravating to use.
Arrived Carlisle a few minutes late to find unexpected sunshine. I seem to have neglected to photograph any of the above trains 😀

(* The spelling checker suggests Gwendoline for Pendolino, I think they should rename them forthwith. 🤣 )

Settled into the hotel and went for a walk and to find food. I was a bit worried to see that the hotel room faced a number of clubs and bars but as it turned out they were all shut so nights were undisturbed. No mobile signal (Three UK) but good free wifi.
Dinner at The Griffin, standard Greene King stuff, explored a quiet Carlisle city centre, and had a couple of swift ones in The Fat Gadgie where you could count the customers on the fingers of one hand. With spares. It's quiet in Carlisle on a Monday evening.


A trip around the Cumbrian Coast Line. Tickets bought via Trainpal but picked up at the station rather than on the mobile app as it would be a long day battery-wise. Better safe than sorry.

A small group of mostly train enthusiasts gathered on the platform awaiting the arrival of a Northern train crew.
Who appeared at exactly the time it was supposed to depart.
Almost everyone sat at the right hand side windows 😀

This line is in every list of the UK's most scenic railway journeys with good reason. Once out of the city it's countryside all the way until it reaches the coast south of Maryport.

Then it hugs the coastline nearly all the way to Barrow-in-Furness.
In places it runs along the sea wall and there are views out to sea along most of the route.

There are some quite remote stations such as Nethertown and some oddly named such as Aspatria and the for some reason amusing Corkickle.

It runs a bit further inland towards Barrow giving views of the southern Lakeland Fells on the other side of the train.

The line also crosses the head of the River Duddon estuary, flat countryside you don't normally associate with the Lake District, you could be in East Anglia or Hampshire.

Barrow was hot and sunny. It's not what you'd call a tourist town though.
Unless you're interested in the Naval Dockyards and they're mostly behind high walls and security gates. I did spot a submarine but too far away to identify it. I suppose it must be one of ours though 😀

The train back was in the rush hour. Which meant that it was lightly loaded leaving Barrow and then very full from Sellafield as all the workers from the nuclear processing and decommissioning site knocked off. Contrary to rumour none of them appeared to have extra heads or other appendages. ⚛


There are no trains to Keswick. The line closed in 1972 so the choice now is drive or bus. The car was at home so at 0900 I joined the other "bus wankers" at Carlisle bus station to get the Stagecoach 554 to Wigton where it becomes the 554 to Keswick. Something to do with drivers shifts and hours I think. Anyway you just stay on the bus and after a fairly scenic drive (top deck front seats are a must) it deposits you in Keswick outside Booths supermarket. Now Keswick really is a tourist town which is probably why it costs you 40p to take a leak and the public toilets accept contactless payment!

My word it was busy but I've been to Keswick before staying at the Camping Club site near the lake side, it always is busy.

Followed the trail along the edge of Derwent Water for a bit, which was also busy then climbed up through the woods to the viewpoint at Castlehead. Steep but worth it for the view over Derwent Water. Only half a dozen other slightly more energetic visitors up there.

The 554 is not a particularly frequent bus route at 4 runs per day which meant plenty of time in Keswick.

So I took a boat trip around Derwent Water which was glorious, then ambled around the shops and had a pint in the Dog & Gun which had quite a few of the former but none of the latter as far as I could tell. The beer was good though and was as welcome as the seat in the shade. Before getting the bus back to Carlisle I did a bit of  shopping in Booth's and save myself 40p while I was there. The bus got back to Carlisle a little before 7 pm so I had a quick freshen up in the hotel and then went a few yards down Botchergate to the Shaha Tandoori for a well deserved (well I thought so) curry. It's one of those places which are upstairs so you don't know what it's like until you get inside. A traditional curry house and very good was the answer.


Windemere does still have a railway. A short but scenic branch line runs from the West Coast main line at Oxenholme The Lake District station.

This is a busy little station being as the name suggests the main access to the Lakes for tourists travelling by train.

I got a ticket on my mobile using the Trainpal app which does split ticketing so saved about £3 on the return fare.

Alas the Transpennine Express was late arriving at Oxenholme so I became better acquainted with the station than I'd hoped with a 50 minute wait until the next departure to Windemere. The Northern train arrived and everyone piled on, glad to be on the move again.  Windemere station is nice but of course Windemere town isn't where the lake is.

That's at Bowness-on-Windermere so you have to walk (or get a bus) a mile or so to get there. I walked. It rained. I had looked at the forecast and decided not to take my big waterproof coat. It rained some more and continued to do so every 15 minutes for the rest of the day. I now have (another) new lightweight waterproof jacket. Thankfully Mountain Warehouse had a sale on (Don't they always?) 

I took shelter in The Flying Pig and dried out a bit. Went and got chips by the lake and watched the ducks and
geese getting rained on, and suitably fortified walked back up the hill to Windemere station to get the train back to Carlisle.

The sun came out.

Back in Carlisle and it being only just past 4 pm I visited the castle. Got to try and get the most out of my year's English Heritage membership (otherwise it's £7.50 for an adult) and I can tell you 4.20pm on a Thursday is the ideal time to visit, there were less than a handful of people exploring the extensive castle buildings and grounds.
Carlisle Castle is unusually intact having been in use as an Army base until the 1960s - in fact still used by the Territorials.


Hmm, train doesn't depart until 1249. Fortunately don't have to check out of the hotel until 1130 so had a lie in and then packed and read for a bit (Kate Williams' Rival Queens: The Betrayal of Mary Queen of Scots if you're wondering.) then wandered down to the Market Hall where I found the most traditional market "caff" I've seen in ages and had a full English. 'Cos I'm still officially on holiday and it's allowed.

I found a seat at Carlisle station to wait, to read, and to desperately hope that the hen party also waiting would be at the other end of the train as they'd obviously got on the giggle-juice early. (They were 😌)

At 1249 eleven coaches of Pendolino from Glasgow pulled out of Carlisle and only lost around 9 minutes by the time it arrived at Euston. It's a long walk from the back of an eleven coach train to the ticket barrier, then fight your way across the concourse and down to Euston Square. Circle Line to Paddington arriving about twenty to five.
A curiosity: I had an Off Peak Return with a seat reservation on the 1700 train from Paddington to Reading. The departure boards were clearly displaying a big flashing message that said Off Peak tickets were not valid on this service.

I wasn't up for that argument on a Friday evening so got on the 1652 to Bristol Temple Meads, first stop Reading, and plenty of available seats instead. The train from Reading to Sandhurst was standing room only and unfortunately the part I was standing in contained The Child From Hell who screamed and swore at the other passengers and demanded they move so he could sit down and demanded of his father(?) that he "give me some f*****g chocolate". He got his way on both counts 😒

There are many, many more photographs from this trip in this Flickr Album

Cumbria Trip, June 2019

Sunday, 2 June 2019


10th to 17th May 2019

I had never been to the Peak District. Driven past it on both sides to places further north many times though. So this year I decided I should go and find out what's in the middle. I booked a week at Middleton-by-Wirksworth at a cottage called The Miner's Rest. Conveniently located for a number of Derbyshire Dales visitor attractions. Yes, that includes railways.

Peak Rail 

I walked up to Middleton Top to the bus stop and caught a local bus to Matlock Bus Station which is handily next to the railway station. Plenty of time before the next Peak Rail departure to have a wander around Matlock before returning to the station and crossing the footbridge to Sainsbury's and platform 2 from where Peak Rail operates.

Top Tip: The bus station toilets require 20p. The ones in Sainsbury don't and you have to walk past them to get to the trains. Just sayin'.

I had a pleasant trip on Peak Rail and being early in the season it wasn't absolutely packed, though by no means quiet.

Ecclesbourne Valley Railway

Next up Derbyshire's longest heritage railway and the closest to where I was staying. The EVR runs from Wirksworth to Duffield. It also has another line running up a steep gradient to Ravenstor but that wasn't running on this particular Sunday.

The EVR was a bit busier than Peak Rail - the sunshine had brought out the Grandparents and Grandchildren - but still not crowded and it was a good run to Duffield and back.

After returning to Wirksworth I walked up to Black Rocks where there is a view not for those without a head for heights but worth the climb.

From here I walked along the High Peak Trail, formerly the Cromford and High Peak Railway, built to carry minerals and goods between the canal at Cromford and that at Whaley Bridge utilizing some incredibly steep inclines, so no level easy strolling.

Along the way I found the other local heritage line, the Steeple Grange Light Railway.
I didn't ride this one (they don't run many trains) but was all but dragged through the gate by one of the enthusiastic volunteers for an interesting chat. They've recently extended the line into Middleton itself.

Heights of Abraham

A different attraction today, The Heights of Abraham at Matlock Bath is a hill top park with a cable car to get up there and tours of show caves - former lead mines - to draw in tourists, which it has been doing since the 1780s.

Top Tip: The Heights of Abraham offer a 20% discount off the £18 cable car tickets for those arriving by Rail or Bus. This makes it cheaper to park at Cromford railway station (£2.50), get an off peak return to Matlock Bath (£1) which is next to the nearest car park to the cable car station anyway which costs £6 a day. (Prices correct at time of writing.)

It's cool in the caves, you might want a jumper. The view from the top is spectacular, even more so if you climb the Victoria Tower (because the hill isn't tall enough?). Who doesn't like a cable car? It's a Derbyshire Dangleway!

Trams, trams, trams

Crich Tramway Village or The National Tramway Museum is the other local "big day out".

Plenty of car parking and I couldn't work out the local buses so I drove (I was going on elsewhere afterwards anyway).

You pay your entry fee and get given an old penny coin (1d). This you then exchange for a day ticket to ride as many times as you want. A piece of totally unnecessary theatre but I guess kids like it and old farts can reminisce about the good old days of £.s.d. (or LSD as appropriate). I've got a big bag of old pennies at home, could've taken my own. There are a lot of trams though only a selection run on a particular day. Also static displays, a cafe, and a pub. A real pub, The Red Lion, transported here from Stoke-on-Trent and rebuilt brick by brick. Damn, should've got the bus.

Newark and Derby

The weather forecast was for showers next day (although in the event I saw none). I decided an awayday was in order and got an off peak return from Cromford to Newark, planning to stop off in Derby on the way back.

Oasis, Some Might Say cover.png
Cromford Station is slightly famous, or at least familiar to fans of the popular beat combo known as Oasis, having appeared on the cover art for the single Some Might Say

By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, Link

The line runs from Matlock all the way through to Newark, which means it links both Peak Rail and the EVR to the national rail network.

Newark has a castle, free to enter but partly closed off when I visited due to cracks having been found in the river side curtain wall.

It's an interesting old town to wander in, the market was closing up by the time I arrived but there were plenty of places to obtain vital supplies of cappuccino and cake.
Derby I had actually visited before. At least I had been on a school trip to the now demolished railway works in the late 1970s. I vaguely recognized some of the streets around the station from that trip. As for the city centre, it's much like any other in the UK now. I got something to eat, had a wander about, and headed back to the safety of the hills.

Also while I was there...

I visited Eyam, famous "plague village" of Derbyshire, which was more interesting than expected and had many plaques on the walls of the buildings detailing who had lived and died in them during that dark period during the 1660s.
Shame the National trust have cleared off or I could have made use of my membership. Settled for a nice pot of tea at least.
Edale. Lovely countryside to stroll through. Also the southern terminus of the Pennine Way.

One day.


Flickr Album of my holiday pics if anyone's interested 😀